Thursday, October 29, 2009

Spooky Reads

Our basket of Halloween/Autumn/Thanksgiving books has been sitting out for a few weeks now. Even though my kids are getting older, we still enjoy the fun of picture books. Here are three of our favorites for this time of year.
The Ugly Pumpkin, by Dave Horowitz, is a clever take on the ugly duckling theme. This poor pumpkin just can't seem to fit in anywhere. The story takes us through the season as it moves past Halloween and onto Thanksgiving, ending with a surprise (and hilarious) revelation as the pumpkin discovers some truths about himself.
Ghosts in the House, by Kazuno Kohara, is strikingly drawn with three colors only: black, orange, and white. A little girl moves into a house with her cat, and discovers there are ghosts in her new home. What to do? The girl's solution is rather cozy and cute.

Finally, Mrs. McMurphy's Pumpkin, by Rick Walton, a gorgeously illustrated, slightly sinister story about a woman who lives alone on a farm and is taunted by a threatening pumpkin. Mrs. McMurphy isn't scared, though, and she decisively handles that creepy pumpkin.

What are some of your favorites for this season?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Boo your neighbors

My kids have been booing their friends and neighbors the past few weeks. This sounds like they've been making rude noises at others, but this booing is actually quite a friendly tradition. This time of year, people like to boo, and be booed!
To boo someone, you decorate a brown bag with ghosts and ominous messages, then fill the bag with candy, treats, and a drawing of something spooky. You wait until it's dark outside, then you stealthily drop the bag on the front porch of your unsuspecting friend, ring their door bell, and (here is the really fun part) run away like mad. You don't want to get caught in the act of booing!
This time of year, the kids inside the house (the "booees") know exactly what a doorbell just after dark means. Inside the house, there is a mad scramble as the booees race to be the first to throw open the front door and dash outside so they can peer into the darkness, shouting "I see you! I see you! I know who you are!" (even if they really have no idea).
The booers race home and burst inside, laughing and panting, while at the target house, the happy booees bring the bag inside, eat the candy, and post the spooky drawing in the front window so everyone knows they've been booed. If you get booed, you must pay it forward and boo someone else. Sometimes you get into booing wars with particular neighbors, and boo each other back and forth for days on end.

Then the moms and dads have to go out and buy more candy to hand out to trick-or-treaters, because all the candy they already bought for Halloween night has disappeared, handed out in boo bags.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Here is my very basic sewing machine. I bought this in 1992 or 1993, shortly after I got married. The only needlework I did then was cross stitch and the occasional felt ornament kit, but I had a burning desire to make a quilt, and piecing one by hand was a horrifying thought. It took a while for my husband to warm up to the idea of me spending money on a sewing machine, but he came around when he realized I could buy a basic model pretty cheaply. Without researching at all, I went to Sears and bought this Kenmore.

I have to say, sewing has not come easy to me. Things never turn out perfectly. I jokingly blame the machine. If I had a better machine, this hem would look neater. If I had a better machine, these seams would match. I stick to simple projects (no clothes!) and am satisfied with the results, though I never claim to be good at this, and I would never dream of trying to sell anything I make. Gosh, no.

I have entertained the thought of buying a better machine, and my perfect excuse to do so came last week when this machine stopped working with a screech and a shudder. I took it to the sewing center, and the repair estimate came back, more money than I had originally paid for the machine. Ouch. Was it worth it? Visions of a fancy new machine danced through my head. But being the realist that I am, I knew the repair costs were a small fraction of what a fancy new machine would set us back, and would I even be able to figure out how to operate a fancy new machine? Do I want to go through the stress of selecting a new machine, trying to decide what features I want, and justifying the expense to a frugal husband? Eeesh, no. I'll stick to my very basic Kenmore, thanks. So here it is again, all cleaned up and spiffy, and I am ready to get back to that quilt I am making.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Blanket for Baby

My husband's cousin and his wife had their first baby last week. In the spring, when we learned they were expecting, I started to crochet this baby blanket for them. I had been wanting to try a ripple blanket, and this was the perfect reason to give it a go.

I worked on it in fits and starts, which is how I tend to approach big projects. I am all enthusiastic at the beginning, but when it takes a while to complete, other projects start to seduce me away. I knew I had 9 months, which seemed like a long time, and that didn't help my commitment to this project. Consequently, last week when we got news the baby was here, I was like "Oh, no! I haven't finished the blanket!" and a mad crocheting frenzy ensued.

I got the blanket pattern and the materials from Lion. It's their Child's Chevron Throw pattern, and I made it using their suggested colors, which I love. I never was much for pastels for babies, preferring bright, bold, and cheery colors. This worked up okay, but even though I swatched it first, it ended up wider than it is long. If I had more time (because, you know, 9 months isn't long enough for me to make a baby blanket!), I would have ordered more yarn in each color and made it a bit longer. I also would like to have the same color row at the top and bottom, but this is worked to the pattern exactly, and I had just enough yarn of each color to make it as you see it, so alas, I am calling it finished.

With all those color changes I had a lot of ends to weave in. Sigh. I am a bit worried that it will all come unraveled. I have that fear anytime I knit or crochet a gift. Please don't fall apart, I say to it as I clip the last bit of yarn away.

The baby is a boy. Hope the parents don't mind the lavender and azalea, but there is blue and green in there, too. This would have worked in my own son's nursery very well!

Monday, October 19, 2009


See this ordinary board? My 9 year old daughter kicked through it at her karate class tonight.
Huzzah! Her first board breaking.
My son also broke a board tonight. He has been doing karate for almost 7 years now, so it wasn't his first board, but it was still pretty exciting. The boards get a little bigger and thicker as the kids get bigger and more experienced, so it's always a challenge.

As we were getting ready to go to class, my daughter told me she felt a little nervous about the board-breaking test. My son said to her "Why? Board breaking is easy. Let me show you..." and he faked a move toward the kitchen cupboard. "Scream!" from mom. "Just kidding!" from son. That kid, always keeping me on my toes.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dressing up the Living Room

I found these cute little pumpkins at this etsy shop. They make a nice display on my end table. Family Fun has instructions for how to make a similar pumpkin, which looks fairly simple to do.

I am trying to dress up my living room a little bit. The look has been stagnant for awhile. Last summer when my mom was here she suggested I "do something" to the corner by the bench. I gave it some thought, and struck upon the idea of a plant stand with a topiary, which I put in place two days ago.
I like it, except when I see it out of the corner of my eye, I think there's a short person with a tiny head standing in the corner.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Like a Squirrel

I am taking my cue from the squirrels and preparing for the winter now, while the sun still shines and there is no snow on the ground.By the end of January I feel so desperate for spring, but spring doesn't arrive in these parts until (late) April. That's a long time to feel desperate for something, so this year I am taking matters into my own hands. This year, in February, I am going to put this spray-painted branch into a pretty container in my dining room and hang little felt hearts and felt strawberries on it. All summer and fall I've been on the lookout for the perfect branch. I needed to find it early so I could paint it before it got too cold to do the painting outside. I recently discovered this branch, but it is not the first perfect branch I've found in my months of searching. Oh, no. I found many perfect branches the past few months, but every time I brought one home, it would mysteriously disappear from our back deck before I got a chance to paint it. I figured the kids were taking them. When I found this perfect branch last week, I put it in the garage, right in the middle of a milk crate I was using to prop up a frame I had been painting. I figured a branch right in the middle of my painting area would be a clue that I had a plan for it. That night at dinner, just to be safe, I announced to my family "Please do not touch the branch that is in the crate in the garage." I nattered on and on about all the perfect branches that have mysteriously disappeared from the deck all summer long, and how annoying it is to have to keep finding perfect branches. My children laughed hilariously over poor dumb mom and her disappearing branches. (Why do you want to paint a branch, Mom? They don't get it.)

My husband looked a little sheepish during my tirade, and I suddenly realized he was behind the disappearing branches! The ensuing frustrated sputterings (me), countered by oh-so logical defenses (his), had the children in stitches.

After dinner my husband went outside and fished my latest perfect branch out of the yard waste bin, because, yes, he had already tossed it, even though he'd only been home for about 30 seconds before coming in to dinner. I let him make up for all his branch tossing by having him spray paint it for me. So now it's done, just waiting for my late-winter, hurry-up-spring decorating schemes.

I am also going to try my hand at forcing tulip bulbs this winter. I potted them today, and tucked them into the back of our refrigerator. If all goes as planned, I will have tulips in my dining room in February. I followed these instructions for forcing tulips.
I might also try hyacinths in water. We didn't like the smell of the paperwhites I potted last year, but the thought of pretty paperwhites nestled in a glass bowl with pebbles and water over ruled my nose, so I picked up some of those, too. The kids are going to be quite grumpy with me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

12 hours

My children had a 12-hour karate seminar on Saturday, from 7:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m. My husband and I did not have to stay with them, so we had a "free" day. We puttered around the house, went out for lunch, and ran some errands. While we were out, I bought the children a little treat. Aren't these cute? And so yummy, too. I am a sucker for ordinary treats being dolled up for a holiday. I managed to leave the packages unopened until the children got home. Just barely.

My children were required to attend the karate seminar as part of their training for black belt. My daughter is a first degree black belt candidate, and my son is a second degree black belt candidate. They've been in extra training for the past few months, and if they fulfill all the requirements and pass their tests, they will be promoted in November.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I picked up two finished cross stitch pieces from the framer yesterday: the Christmas Elf Fairy (the woman at the framers said it was their favorite piece they've done recently!), and this pattern by Shepherd's Bush, called On The Haunt. Except for the little tombstones, it's all backstitch, so it went together very quickly. I love that scritchety-looking tree with the moon hanging in the branches. The little buttons are a fun touch, although the placement of the witch puts her directly on top of the really cool wrought-iron gate post, which was one of my favorite features of the stitch design. Oh, well. I didn't have glass added to this one because I figure those little buttons will eventually tip off kilter, and it would drive me crazy not to be able to straighten them.

My lack of posting is indicative of the time I have been spending on house reorganization, as well as school things I have agreed to do this year. The cleaning is slow-going, but it feels right. I have cleaned shelves, drawers, and even rummaged through the contents of my cedar chest to remind myself of what I have squirreled away in there. Some clothes I was keeping strictly for sentimental reasons got the heave-ho. I was also thrilled to find a sweater I forgot I had kept! That definitely is going back into the wardrobe rotation.

I was most excited to find these doilies:

Pardon me for not pressing them first, but if I waited to do that before photographing them, it would be months! I stitched these when I was a child, probably 10 or 11, and gave one to each of my grandmas. I remember buying these at KMart. The designs were pre-printed on them. I smile now to see that I used all 6 plies of the embroidery thread, but it does make for a nice assertive stitch! The colors are so 70s. We have RED, BLUE, and GREEN, instead of something like cranberry, ocean, and moss. My grandmas died 13 and 9 years ago, and I couldn't remember what happened to these doilies. I had a vague idea they were at my mom's, but lo and behold, they were right there in my cedar chest, safe and sound. They are a little yellowed, but I'm not sure if I should wash them. That RED will run all over everything and turn it all pink. Any good ideas?